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Jarome Iginla scores 50th as playoff-bound Flames down Canucks

The Canadian Press
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Vancouver Canucks\' Trevor Linden (16) shakes hands with Calgary Flames Jarome Iginla after playing what may be his last NHL hockey game at GM Place in Vancouver, Saturday, April 5, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Richard Lam Author: The Hockey News

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Jarome Iginla scores 50th as playoff-bound Flames down Canucks

The Canadian Press
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VANCOUVER - Jarome Iginla got both a confidence-building win and a milestone Saturday night.

He reached the 50-goal plateau for the second time in his career as the Calgary Flames prepared for the Stanley Cup playoffs by dominating the sagging Vancouver Canucks 7-1.

The win came on a night veteran Trevor Linden likely said good-bye to his home town fans.

Linden, a 19-year veteran who has not revealed his future plans, received several thunderous ovations. The Flames lined up after the game to shake his hand.

"It's important to go in with the win, to give ourselves a chance to be as high a seed as we can," said Iginla, who scored his first goal in four games at 12:35 of the third period. "Also, we were probably gripping our sticks a little tight as a group the last few games."

He went to the net to receive a return pass from linemate Eric Nystrom and knocked the puck behind Canuck backup goalie Curtis Sanford.

"Tonight I felt like we held on to the puck a little better, we were moving it better through the neutral zone and those were things that we're going to need to do later," said Iginla, who last reached 50 goals in 2001-02 when he had 96 points.

He also drew a pair of assists to finish the regular season with a career-high 98 points. Nystrom also had a three-point night with two goals and an assist.

David Moss, Kristian Huselius, Dustin Boyd and Alex Tanguay completed the Flames attack while Byron Ritchie, with his first goal in 45 games, gave Vancouver a 1-1 first-period tie.

The Flames, who backed into the post-season when Vancouver lost 2-1 Thursday to the Edmonton Oilers, improved to 42-30-10 and into sixth place in the Western Conference.

They had lost three of their last four games but the win moved them a point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche who finish the regular NHL season Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

"We were in a complete battle," Iginla said of the Flames' drive for a playoff spot.

"We were all fighting for our lives and we made it. It was tough. In the last five (games) besides tonight it felt like it was Game 7 (of a playoff series).

"We kind of feel we've truly been through a series. We're going to learn from some of the stressful, tough days and try to go on a run."

Nystrom, who now has three goals in 44 games, hoped he had earned more playing time.

"It's tough being in and out of the lineup but every day I've been coming to the rink and working as hard as I can for an opportunity.

"Tonight I tried taking advantage of every shift I had. I obviously want to push the coaches' hand and make them see I can play but after that, that's all I can really do."

If Calgary remains sixth, the Flames face division-rival Minnesota in the opening round of the playoffs. They were 6-2 against the Wild this season.

If the Flames are shunted back to seventh by a Colorado win, they'll meet the white-hot San Jose Sharks who have lost only once in regulation in their last 21 games, 18 of them victories.

Calgary held a 3-1 series edge over the Sharks, with two wins coming in overtime.

"I think everybody's still in shock on what happened," coach Alain Vigneault said of Vancouver's collapse down the stretch.

"I liked the way we played in the first when we were down. But after that it got really hard for our guys to play, and It looked like a summer hockey game there at times from both teams."

It was regular-season game No. 1,382 for Linden, who has 375 goals and 868 points, enough to pass Eric Lindros for 99th on the all-time points list.

Linden received a loud, long standing ovation to start the third period. Players from both teams skated away from the centre circle, leaving him alone to applaud the fans.

The sellout crowd also chanted Linden's name and "one more year." A Canuck for 16 of his 19 seasons, Linden holds the club record of 415 assists. He scored 318 goals as a Canuck, second to Markus Naslund, and had 733 points.

The Canucks outshot the Flames 17-9 in the first period but were down 3-1. All-star goalie Roberto Luongo was lifted at that point after making only six saves.

"I don't really care," Luongo said of the outcome. "My season ended (with the Edmonton loss) Thursday as far as I'm concerned. I tried to bring it tonight, but obviously I didn't have anything in the tank."

NOTES: All but 242 of Linden's games were in a Vancouver uniform ... Naslund played his 1,035th NHL game and 803rd as a Canuck ... Vancouver forward Taylor Pyatt missed a second consecutive game with a concussion suffered Tuesday when he took a heavy hit on the side boards from Colorado's Jeff Finger ... the Canucks recorded their 215th consecutive sellout at GM Place.

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Jarome Iginla scores 50th as playoff-bound Flames down Canucks